Why Use Spray Foam Insulation for Energy Efficiency?

The first commercial insulation was spun fiberglass developed in the 1930s by Owens-Corning. Then, in 1953, a different type of insulation evolved. Walter Baughman created a machine called the Blendometer which mixed an expanding foam called a plastic elastomer that we now call spray foam insulation.

Spray foam insulation has become increasingly popular because it’s quick to apply and has been proven to lower heating and cooling bills. Traditional insulation materials like fiberglass require staples. Cellulose uses a blower to pump it into finished walls and attics. Spray foam insulation is a liquid that applies using a spray gun. It becomes a foam that rapidly expands to fill gaps and holes before hardening. This feature creates a seamless barrier that prevents air leaks and heat transfer. Like a goose down sleeping bag for your building, it keeps the interior comfortable and lowers energy bills.

Keep reading to learn the benefits and advantages of spray foam insulation, what’s available, and how to install and maintain it for optimal performance.

What is Spray Foam Insulation, and How Does It Work?

It is an insulation material applied as a liquid and expands into a foam that quickly hardens. Spray foam insulation combines two composite materials, polyurethane and isocyanate. Isocyanates are a group of highly reactive, low molecular weight chemicals. When combined, the two materials react chemically, expanding into a foam that hardens. 

During the installation process, the two materials pump through a sprayer simultaneously. The tip of a spray foam gun mixes the chemicals allowing them to expand and form an insulating layer over a designated area.

The application involves spraying the foam into walls or ceilings, rapidly expanding to fill gaps, cracks, and voids. The foam then hardens into a solid, providing an airtight seal and effectively preventing heat transfer. This property makes spray foam insulation highly efficient in reducing energy loss and maintaining a consistent indoor temperature. There are two types of foam, closed-cell, and open-cell.

Closed-Cell vs. Open-Cell Spray Foam Insulation

Spray insulation can be closed-cell or open-cell. Each type offers benefits and is suitable for different applications. 

During the expansion phase, both types form bubbles, creating a foam-like structure. Open cell bubbles rupture, leaving only the struts or connection points between bubbles. Closed cell bubbles don’t rupture, creating interconnected microscopic balloons.

1. Closed-Cell Spray Foam Insulation

Closed-cell spray foam insulation is a dense and rigid foam that provides a superior level of insulation. Foam manufacturer Johns Manville reports that it has an R-value of R-7 per inch, making it highly effective in preventing heat transfer. Closed cell spray foam has a density of 2 lbs./ft3 and is an effective air and moisture barrier when applied at 1.5” thickness or greater.

One of the key advantages of closed-cell spray foam is its dense structure which allows it to repel water. Closed cell foam insulation is ideal for moisture-prone areas like basements and crawl spaces. It can also provide structural support, strengthening walls and roofs.

2. Open Cell Spray Foam Insulation

Open cell spray foam insulation is a softer and more flexible foam. It has a lower R-value of R-3.8 per inch but still provides excellent insulation properties. It requires a 3.75” thickness or greater to achieve the same air barrier as 1” of closed cell insulation but doesn’t protect against moisture.

One of the main advantages of open cell spray foam is its ability to soundproof a space. The foam’s porous structure absorbs sound waves, reducing noise transmission between rooms and from outside. Open cell foam is also a cost-effective option, making it popular for homeowners seeking an affordable interior insulation solution.

Benefits of Spray Foam Insulation

Here are some main benefits of using spray foam insulation in your home:

Energy-Efficient and Cost Savings – Spray foam insulation fills cracks and creates an airtight seal that prevents air leakage and minimizes heat transfer. Closed-cell foam has an R-value of 7 versus 3.8 to 5 for fiberglass. Higher R-value insulation reduces energy consumption and utility bills. 

Superior Insulation Performance – Foam insulation has a higher R-value and better thermal resistance. Its ability to resist heat flow, eliminate drafts, and maintain stable indoor temperatures makes it highly efficient. It helps in reducing reliance on heating and cooling systems. 

Air Sealing and Moisture Control – One of the spray foam insulation benefits is its ability to seal gaps, cracks, and voids, preventing air leakage. Additionally, closed cell spray foam acts as a moisture barrier, preventing water intrusion and minimizing the risk of mold and mildew growth. Spray foam insulation is ideal for moisture-prone areas.

Longevity and Durability – Spray foam is synthetic; it will not break down or lose shape. It is a one-time investment that lasts the lifetime of the building.

Versatility and Easy Installation – Spray foam insulation installers use a pressurized spray gun like a spray painter. Depending on various factors, contractors try to shoot 2500-3500 square feet of finished spray foam per day. 

Spray Foam Insulation vs. Traditional Insulation: Which is Better?

While both types of insulation effectively reduce energy costs and improve indoor comfort, they have significant differences.

Spray Foam Insulation Traditional Insulation
Spray foam fills cracks, gaps, and crevices, providing an airtight seal. Additional materials, like caulking or weatherstripping, are required to achieve an airtight seal.
Provides a higher R-value per inch, meaning better insulation and energy efficiency. A lower R-value per inch may require thicker insulation to achieve the desired comfort level.
It can be more expensive upfront. Generally, less expensive upfront.
It may provide potential cost savings in the long run due to improved energy efficiency. It may have a lower R-value, resulting in higher energy bills due to air leaks.
Requires professional installation. DIYers or professionals can install it.
Usually only needs one pass to apply it. Requires the installation of plastic sheets as a moisture barrier before installing the insulation. Fiberglass and mineral wool batting need staples to hold it in place.
It can reduce or eliminate the infiltration of pollutants and allergens, improving indoor air quality. It may not provide as much air sealing, potentially allowing pollutants and allergens to enter the home.
Closed cell foam can withstand water. Water leaks can ruin this insulation, requiring replacement.


Ultimately, deciding between spray foam and traditional insulation comes from personal preference and budget. Both insulation types have pros and cons; the best option for one building may not be the best for another. It’s important to consider all factors and consult a professional before deciding.

How Much Can You Save Using Spray Foam Insulation In Your Home?

Insulation is an expense that provides a return in energy savings and comfort over time. According to the Bob Villa website, Closed cell foam is the most expensive, followed by open-cell and fiberglass. Here’s the average cost breakdown:

Open-cell spray foam insulation: $0.44 to $0.65 per board foot.

Closed-cell spray foam insulation: $1.00 to $1.50 per board foot.

Fiberglass batt insulation: $0.30 to $1.50 per square foot.

In this case, a board foot of foam is 1 ft. x 1 ft. x 3.5 inches thick.

One Michigan foam installer reports that homeowners saved 30% to 50% on their energy bills after properly insulating their homes with spray foam.

While the initial installation cost may be higher, long-term savings can offset the upfront investment. Also, spray foam insulation can last indefinitely, eliminating future replacement costs.

How to Install Spray Foam Insulation 

While hiring a professional for spray foam insulation installation is recommended, it is possible to undertake the process as a DIY project. However, it’s crucial to install it correctly to ensure maximum benefits and safety. 

Here are some of the main items you’ll need for a successful installation:

  • Spray foam heaters: These specialized heating blankets wrap around the foam tanks to maintain the optimal temperature.
  • Hoses and applicators: Special hoses direct the pressurized foam to the applicator guns or tips that spray the foam onto the surface. 
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Cover yourself completely and wear PPE when applying foam insulation. PPE includes goggles, gloves, a hooded coverall suit, and a respirator to avoid skin and respiratory irritation. 

Use latex disposable gloves and tape them to your sleeves to prevent foam from getting on your wrist. 

Tips for Successful Installation

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
  • Practice on a small area before tackling larger projects.
  • Use the correct type of spray foam insulation for your specific needs.
  • Allow the foam to dry completely before trimming the excess with a saw or knife.
  • Check for any missed spots and reapply if necessary to ensure complete coverage.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area.
  • Determine the type of spray foam insulation you need for your home.
  • Prepare the area by removing any debris and ensuring the walls are dry.
  • Cover any gaps or openings to prevent the foam from escaping.

It is important to note that while DIY foam insulation installation is possible, hiring a professional spray foam contractor ensures proper installation, adherence to safety standards, and optimal insulation performance. 

Cold Weather Installation and Spray Foam Heaters

Construction goes on all year round. When applying spray foam in cold climates, it must stay warm during the application process. If it’s too cold, it will clog the nozzle and apply unevenly.

The solution is to wrap the tanks with spray foam heaters. They are heated blankets that provide even heat to the entire tank. Applying the product at the specified temperature keeps the equipment in good condition and improves product yield and performance.

How to Choose the Right Spray Foam Insulation Contractor

Choosing the right contractor is critical when installing spray foam insulation. While many contractors claim to be experts in spray foam insulation, not all have the necessary experience and training to handle the job correctly.

Hire an insulation contractor with a track record of successfully completing similar projects. Check reviews and ask for references to understand their reputation.

Another important consideration is their certifications and training. Look for a contractor certified by the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance (SPFA). They offer four levels of certification: Assistant, Installer, Master Installer, and Project Manager. An installation certification ensures they have received the proper training and follow industry standards for safety and quality.

You should also ask about their process for installing spray foam insulation, including the type of equipment they use and the steps to ensure proper ventilation and air quality during installation. A reputable contractor can explain their process in detail and answer any questions.

Finally, don’t forget to consider the cost. While you don’t want to skimp on quality, you also want to ensure you get a fair price for the job. Always get quotes from two or three contractors to compare prices and services before deciding.

What Is The Best Time of Year to Install Spray Foam Insulation?

Spray foam insulation can be installed at any time of the year, but the best time to do it is in the spring or fall when the weather is mild. Consider certain factors when determining the best time for installation.

Temperature and Humidity – It is advisable to install spray foam when the ambient temperatures are between 60 to 80°F (15°C to 27°C). This temperature range allows for optimal expansion and curing of the foam. High humidity levels can also impact the curing time, resulting in more extended drying periods. It is advisable to install spray foam insulation when the humidity levels are relatively low.

Construction Schedule – Coordinating with a professional contractor well in advance is best to ensure timely installation and avoid any potential delays. 

Spray foam insulation is temperature sensitive, and you should use spray foam heaters to keep the product heated to the optimal temperature regardless of weather conditions. The correct temperature provides higher yields, fewer delays, and less product waste.

How to Maintain Your Spray Foam Insulation Installation for Optimal Performance

Here are some tips for maintaining your new insulation:

  1. Regular Inspections – Periodically inspect the insulation for any damage, cracks, gaps, or areas of deterioration. Repair any damage immediately to maintain the insulation’s effectiveness.
  2. Moisture Management – Monitor and control moisture levels in the home to prevent water intrusion and excess moisture buildup. Fix any plumbing leaks, roof leaks, or moisture issues immediately to avoid compromising the insulation.
  3. Pest Control – Check for pests. Foam insulation does not provide food for termites, but termites and carpenter ants can burrow through it. 

Additional Considerations Before Using Spray Foam Insulation

Before deciding to use spray foam insulation in your home, there are several factors to consider:

Cost – Spray foam insulation tends to be more expensive than traditional insulation materials like fiberglass. Assessing your budget and weighing the long-term energy savings against the initial investment is important.

Existing Insulation – Evaluate the condition of any existing insulation in your home before installing spray foam. In some cases, removing or repairing the existing insulation may be necessary to ensure proper adhesion and effectiveness of the spray foam.

Accessibility Spray foam insulation requires access to all surfaces that need to be insulated, including crawl spaces, attics, and wall cavities. Ensure that these areas are easily accessible before opting for spray foam insulation.

Climate and Building Design The climate and building design can influence the effectiveness of spray foam insulation. Consider factors such as humidity levels, temperature extremes, and air leaks or drafts in your home. A professional insulation contractor can assess these factors and recommend the most suitable solution.

Heating Spray FoamHeating spray foam tanks offer more options for cold weather applications. Heating improves the chemical reaction and yields.

The Impact of Spray Foam Insulation on Indoor Air Quality

Spray foam insulation can positively impact indoor air quality when properly installed. It seals walls, crawl spaces, and attics to help prevent the infiltration of outdoor pollutants, allergens, and dust. These things can be particularly beneficial for individuals with respiratory conditions or allergies.

However, it is essential to maintain proper ventilation in the home. Adequate ventilation helps remove fumes or odors emitted during installation and allows for fresh air exchange. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Spray Foam Insulation

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about spray foam insulation.

Q: Is spray foam insulation suitable for all areas of the home?

A: You can use spray foam insulation in various areas, including walls, attics, crawl spaces, and basements. However, consult a professional insulation contractor to determine your structure’s most appropriate insulation solution.

Q: Can I install spray foam insulation myself?

A: While it’s possible to apply it yourself, hiring a professional insulation contractor is best. Proper installation requires specialized equipment and knowledge to ensure optimal performance and adherence to safety standards.

Q: Will spray foam insulation reduce noise transmission?

A: Yes, spray foam insulation, particularly open cell foam, can help reduce noise transmission between rooms and from the outside. Its porous structure absorbs sound waves, providing a soundproofing effect.

Q: How long does spray foam insulation last?

A: When properly installed and maintained, spray foam insulation can last several decades without losing its insulating properties. It is known for its durability and long lifespan compared to traditional insulation materials.

Q: What are the advantages of spray foam insulation?

A: Spray foam insulation has several advantages over traditional insulation methods: 

  1. It significantly improves energy efficiency by creating a seamless air barrier that reduces heat loss and air leakage. This capability translates into lower energy bills and a more comfortable indoor environment. 
  2. It improves indoor air quality by eliminating the infiltration of pollutants and allergens from outside. 
  3. It strengthens the building structure by adhering to surfaces and reducing the risk of moisture, rot, and mold. 
  4. Spray foam insulation has a longer lifespan than traditional insulation methods, saving you money in the long run.

Q: Is spray foam insulation really worth it?

A: Yes, spray foam insulation is worth the investment. While the initial installation cost may be higher than traditional insulation methods, the higher R-value and energy savings will return the investment sooner and longer. 

Final Thoughts on the Importance of Energy Efficiency and Spray Foam Insulation

Choosing the right insulation for your home is crucial for maximizing energy efficiency and reducing environmental impact. Spray foam insulation offers numerous benefits, including superior insulation performance, air sealing, moisture control, and long-term energy savings. By creating an airtight and energy-efficient barrier, spray foam insulation helps to maintain a comfortable indoor environment and reduces reliance on heating and cooling systems.

Whether building a new home or retrofitting an existing one, consider the advantages of spray foam insulation. Consult a professional insulation contractor to assess your needs and determine the most suitable insulation solution for your home. Investing in spray foam insulation provides a more comfortable living space, lower utility bills, and contributes to a greener environment.

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Shelby Thompson

Shelby Thompson is the head of standard product sales for Powerblanket. He has a distinguished military career, having served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In his time in the Marines, Shelby acquired an impressive skillset that he now uses in his current role. When he's not working, Shelby loves spending time outdoors with his wife, son, and daughter. He is also a semi-keen hunter, fair weather fisherman, and shooter. Unfortunately, Shelby also has something of an unlucky streak when it comes to Fantasy Football at the company.

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